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Mendoza won’t attend Feb. 20 fundraiser for Moreno

Proco Joe Moreno and Susana Mendoza

Ald. Proco Joe Moreno 1st) and Susana Mendoza, then the Chicago city clerk, talk during a City Council meeting in October 2015. | Sun-Times files

Susana Mendoza said Wednesday she’ll be a no-show at a Feb. 20 fundraiser she was scheduled to attend to bankroll the re-election campaign of Ald. Proco Joe Moreno (1st).

An invitation the Mendoza campaign claims it never knew about listed Mendoza as the featured “honored guest” at the Moreno fundraiser at Tuko Cantina, 1938 W. Division St.

But that was before the Chicago Police Department opened an investigation into whether Moreno filed a false police report last month claiming his car had been stolen.

Further complicating the issue was a Chicago Sun-Times story this week quoting Moreno as acknowledging that he steered business to political power broker Victor Reyes.

Moreno acknowledged receiving campaign contributions from Reyes, but denied any quid pro quo or political pressure.

All of that apparently makes Moreno politically toxic for Mendoza, who was already under fire for her close ties to three other political allies at the center of one of the biggest corruption scandals Chicago has seen in decades: aldermen Edward Burke (14th) and Danny Solis (25th) and Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.

Toni Preckwinkle’s campaign circulated the invitation and was quick to pounce with a press release headlined: “The latest on Mendoza’s pals.”

It continued: “The latest? Her ex-boyfriend Joe Moreno, who is now under investigation for filing a false police report in a bizarre story that hasn’t been really been explained, is apparently hosting a fundraiser later this month with “Featured Guest” Susana Mendoza,” the Preckwinkle release states.

“So, for those keeping score at home, Mendoza has had to distance herself from indicted Alderman Ed Burke, Alderman Danny Solis, Speaker Mike Madigan, donor Brian Hynes, and now Alderman Joe Moreno.

“How’s that ethics plan going?”

Invitation to Proco Joe Moreno fundraiser

Susana Mendoza says she never knew about this event, though she is featured on the invitation as the “honored guest.” Regardless, she said, she can’t go. | Provided

On Wednesday, Mendoza was asked about the Moreno fundraiser during an unrelated news conference called to highlight her transportation plan.

She didn’t say “What fundraiser?” But her response was nearly that.

“I’m not going to that, by the way. I’m gonna be in Springfield for that. I think he just probably put my name on there. But I’m not gonna be at that event. I’m in Springfield that day,” said Mendoza, the newly re-elected state comptroller.

Mendoza was asked whether she was “disavowing” Moreno and her ties to the alderman and his fundraiser. She pretty much ignored the question and repeated her earlier statement.

“I guess I was not aware of that. I know I’m gonna be in Springfield on that day. Isn’t that the day of the budget address or something? Yeah. I’m gonna be in Springfield,” she said.

Mendoza was pressed again about Moreno and whether she appreciates his support.

“Well look, I want everyone’s support in the city of Chicago from a voting perspective, [but] I haven’t been rolling out endorsements of elected officials. It’s not something I’ve been pursuing,” she said.

“I’ve been trying to get the votes of the people who I am gonna be serving as their mayor. That’s been my concern and that’s been my focus.”

That wasn’t the end of it. She was asked about the roughly $50,000 loan she made to Moreno a decade ago and what that says about their relationship.

“I’ve always supported candidates who want to run for office here and there in different ways,” Mendoza said.

“That’s a good thing. I’m always gonna be somebody who tries to help people up the ladder. So when people seek my support, that’s a good thing. But you want to focus on the past. I really want to focus on the future.”

Moreno could not be reached for comment.

The investigation aimed at determining whether Moreno filed a false police report was opened after WGN-TV on Monday night aired a report in which Moreno shared information with a reporter that “was not previously communicated to police,” according to CPD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi.

After the stolen vehicle report, police pulled Moreno’s car over early Monday and arrested Liliya Hrabar, who was charged with criminal trespass to vehicle, a Class A misdemeanor.

That charge was dropped Tuesday.

Hrabar told WGN that she and Moreno have an on-and-off dating relationship and that he loaned her his car. She provided screen shots of several text exchanges with Moreno to back up her account.

On Tuesday, Hrabar spoke with the Sun-Times and said she does not know why Moreno told the police his black 2006 Audi A6 had been stolen.

“He loaned me the car on Jan. 3. He told me to come to his house. He gave me the keys. He brought me to the garage, opened the door, told me to drive safe and told me not to smoke in his car,” Hrabar said.

Hrabar said she was arrested early Monday morning when police pulled her over in the 4800 block of West Armitage Avenue while she was driving back to her Northwest Side home after attending a concert.

“Can you imagine, six police cars around me. I thought it was a joke. I kept telling police ‘Where’s the camera? This must be a joke.’ I was crying. … I had a panic attack,” she said.

Contributing: Mitch Dudek